Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya

ASSA

 

This movie impressed me with its “first look” poster. I wanted to watch the movie when I saw the teaser. I couldn’t watch the movie while it was in the theatres and caught up with the moment it released on “Amazon Prime”

I ended up liking it so much that I saw it thrice in a span of 10 days. Naveen Polisetty was fabulous in the movie and it isn’t surprising that he helped in the writing department. Maybe the conviction in the writing touched upon the acting as well.

Not everything about the movie is good. The theme, the flow, the actors and the acting was good. Starting and the ending seem pretty rushed. It’s almost as if the director wants to take you to the protagonist being a detective. Till we get to the actual plot, one feels that the director has played all his cards. Once into the actual plot, director and the able protagonist shine.

In the initial few minutes, the comic writing shines through. It’s as if the movie wants to be a new generation Chantabbai. There is a hat-tip to Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock as well. The way the detective instructs his apprentice is a treat to watch. One scene where he differentiates himself from an LIC agent is rip-roaring.

Once they get to the plot, they don’t deviate from there. And we don’t feel a need for any relief. So engrossed are we that we don’t notice the absence of a romantic track, comedy thread or needless eulogising of the hero.

There is no “twist-a-minute” or a parallel track to lead us off on. There are three reveals in the movie. Revelation of who does it, revelation of why they do it and revealing who gets it done. While there are small hints the movie gives us, we fail to catch on it as it does not dwell on it.

This is a movie where every character was important to the movie, in one way or another. Heck, the location – Nellore – was also chosen with care. The native dialect was spoken by the protagonist and it seemed he did it well. This is a good thing as we can’t have protagonist being a native of Kakinada and speaking in Telangana dialect and vice-versa. Shooting in locations real-time gave the movie its charm. And so did the references to local dishes and places.

On the whole, Naveen Polisetty dominates the frame and he has able support from the other actors. It’s not a joke to pull the movie through without an established name in the cast. That, by itself, tells us how much the movie had us engrossed in the tale rather than the stars.

Verdict: It’s difficult to imagine an existing hero to pull this script off and at the same time it’s too demanding of a new actor to portray the role. Naveen does a fantabulous job

Image courtesy: 123telugu.com

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 17-19

Episode 17: Necklace
Time Period: 1957
Plot of the case: A jeweller is stricken by arthritis and wants to deliver an order to New Delhi. He wants his son to take care of it as the value of the jewels is high. The next day they find that the package is missing. Since there are not more than three characters on whom the needle of suspicion hovers on, the case is tightly bound.

Episode 18: Amrit ki Maut
Time Period: 1958
Plot of the case: After a long time we get to see a mysterious case. A kid’s body is found with a bullet ensconced. There is an urban legend about a black horse and when another person is killed, all hell breaks loose. While the unravelling seems pedestrian, the suspense maintained till that point is thrilling. One of the better episodes in the second season till this point.

Episode 19: Pahari Rahasya
Time Period: 1958
Plot of the case : This episode takes place in Mahabaleshwar where Byomkesh Bakshi comes to a resort to investigate a murder. This episode is better than Amrit ki Maut and picks up slowly. There is deceit, sleight of hand and intelligent murderer.

Suggested Reading:

Jersey Movie Review

 

posters-jersey8

Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Ajay Jadeja, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sanjay Manjrekar …

Shantanu Sugwekar, Amol Muzumdar, Vanka Pratap, Jitendar Singh, Sanjay Raul …

The first set of names are of the people in the 1996 World Cup squad for India.

The second set of names are of the people who played well in the 1996/97 Ranji Trophy. Some of them, like Shantanu Sugwekar and Amol Muzumdar, didn’t even get a chance to represent India. Jersey talks about cricketers belonging to the second set of names.

***

The movie opens in 2019 when a book written by an author named Ramya is making waves in New York. It is the top-seller. It’s named ‘Jersey’. The movie then jumps back to 1986 when we are introduced to Arjun, the cricketer on whom the book is based on, is shown as a talented cricketer. Then the movie jumps to 1996 where Arjun is sleeping with his family in the living room, under a leaking roof. He faces lot of the problems that the middle class faced in those days – unpaid rent, growing debts and no income.

There is nothing horrid that happened in the 10 years. It’s not the story of those 10 years. He gives up cricket because he is not selected to the national team even though his name was in the papers the day before. He takes up a job in FCI and as luck has it, he gets suspended. He is dependent on his wife for money and he gets used to the domestic life by watching cricket all day and indulging his 7-year old son.

***

Arjun’s life changes when his son wants an Indian Jersey as a gift on his birthday. He moves from pillar to post to get the 500 rupees required for buying the “Jersey”. He even resorts to wanting to steal the money from his wife’s purse and gets caught in the bargain. The next few minutes after that are an indicator to the brilliance in Nani. He doesn’t talk when caught by his wife and reprimanded in front of people and his son. Shraddha Srinath excels in that scene where she brings forth her insecurities, fears and helplessness at their state. A little later, father and son have a moment with each other. It’s a challenge for you to stay unmoved after that scene. Even the stone-hearted people would shed a tear or two.

Some of the best scenes in the movie revolve around the father-son relationship. The change in Arjun in the ten years is his internalisation. Internalisation of grief, happiness, joy and helplessness. But, there is no internalisation when it comes to his son. He enjoys every moment with him, because in the entire world that surrounds him, his son is the only one that doesn’t judge him.

In a quest for the only thing that his son has ever asked him, the Jersey, Arjun falls back on the only thing he knows – cricket. While he wants to play cricket, people want him to coach. He does convince them of his abilities and finds his way to the final fifteen of the Hyderabad Ranji team. The celebration of Nani when he finds out that he has made it is special and it shows.

After that, it’s cricket matches, a stellar season and the climax.

***

Gowtam Tinnanuri, as a director, is at the top of his game in this movie. He makes everyone who watches it relate to the story in one way or another. Though you can predict the next scene, you can’t predict how brilliantly the actors performed. The actor’s performances give you a special high. None more so than Nani’s. When the movie’s title was announced, I wondered why would anyone want to name his movie, Jersey. After seeing the movie, one feels, there is no other title that could’ve been apt. His pain staking research is evident and there is one small glitch that might have been overlooked – Nike branded bats in 1996 didn’t exist. He teases us with scenes where we expect he would glorify the protagonist, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t fall for the temptation

It would be an injustice to say that this is Nani’s best. In my eyes, he is one of the best performers in the Telugu Film industry, if not the best. With every movie of his, he sets the bar higher. He has come a long way from being a director’s actor to being a director’s dream. He excels throughout the movie. There are a few scenes that stand as indicators to his greatness as a performer – the scene where he is drinking Badam milk while discussing luck with his friend, the entire birthday scene, the scene with Shraddha Srinath where he tells her that for the first time in ten years, he is getting angry with her. Check for his dialogue modulation there. What about the scene where he literally begs his wife for one final chance? And the scene preceding that ? His acting and the believability of his character is such that your eyes well up with tears regardless of his presence in the scene.

Shraddha Srinath doesn’t have as much to do as Nani and the actor who played his son. The undertone of her relationship with her husband is brilliantly conveyed in her own words to a colleague, “We are not like other couples. We fight, but we don’t shout on each other.” Look for her reactions when she catches Nani stealing from her purse.

The kid who played their son is another actor who does well. The father-son relationship plays out so bloody well. Nani and this kid, in different scenes, show us that we don’t need faces to emote. Words would’ve a similar effect. Look for the scene where he tells his father that he doesn’t need the Jersey anymore. That’s the scene where Nani also excels and tells him that the fight between his parents is not because of him.

Satyaraj, Pradeep and others perform well in the roles given to them.

Verdict: Watch the movie and watch it again.

Image courtesy : idlebrain.com

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 14-16

Episode 14 A,B: Aadim Shatru

Time Period: 1955

Plot of the case: A rich publisher is found to be murdered on the night of Diwali. He adopts a son before the death and the question of property arises here. He has two vagrant nephews and a drunkard friend. Byomkesh goes about solving the case in a logical manner. There is a arms dealer involved in the story as well.

This is the beginning of the second season of the series. There is only the time period mentioned in the cases. Places are not mentioned like they were in the first series.

Episode 15: Aag aur Patanga

Time Period: 1956

Plot of the case: A bit of adultery makes it appearance in this episode. A rich man is found dead the day after throwing a lavish party. It’s found that his second wife is pregnant as well. The suspicion points towards a lot of people. Byomkesh needs to go to a place to find the antecedents of a few people.

It’s very difficult to judge the motive and the suspect in this case. The episode plays out well and the final reveal comes out as a shock for us.

Episode 16: Vansh ka Khoon

Time Period: 1956

Plot of the case: A man comes to Byomkesh with an offer to investigate his death after he is murdered. He also knows who might murder him but wants Byomkesh to reveal it. He is found to be murdered at the doorstep of his house. For a man with money and philandering ways, he might have a lot of enemies. There is a lot of digging that Byomkesh does but to no avail.

Finally, Byomkesh finds out the reason, motive and the murderer with the help of the birthdate of the murderer

Suggested Reading:

 

KGF Movie Review

KGF

Image courtesy: behindwoods.com

Name a blockbuster and more often than not you will find revenge or good vanquishing evil as the central theme. KGF doesn’t attempt to take a different route. How it goes about doing it is the moot point.

Prashanth Neel, the director of the movie, excelled with action set pieces in his first movie Ugram. The protagonist wears an intense look, he seems to have a flashback and he becomes a saviour. KGF, too, remains faithful to the template and there is enhanced grandness. How else can you make it a pan-India film?

He gets a star at the top of his game and boy, does he utilise him well? The entire movie is about Yash. Yash doesn’t let the director down as he gives a terrifying form to the character. Swagger is what the industry reckons by and Yash gives Rocky, the character, a lot of it. The movie starts in 1981 and we have a female minister, grapevine has it that it’s based on Indira Gandhi, signing orders for the pulling back of a book and removing traces of a person from public knowledge.

A media organisation gets hold of the author of the book when it’s found that he is a person who doesn’t waste words on needless things but has written an entire book on a person. So, they think it’s imperative to know about the person from him.

The author starts tracing the story from his birth where we are told that at the time he was born, gold was also found at a place 18 Kilometres from Kolar Gold Fields. Born Raja Krishnappa Bairya, he loses his mother pretty early in life. His mother tells him that she doesn’t mind what he does but he shouldn’t die a poor man.

**

Prashanth Neel seems to be inspired by the oeuvre of SS Rajamouli and there are traces of early Rajamouli films in this movie. One can say that Prashanth has taken the blueprint and strides forward with it.

After his mother’s death, the kid has a target but not the path. A chance encounter with vagrant tells him that if you beg, you get pennies, but you threaten, you get big money. He starts out as a boot polisher (yeah! Mumbai, Underworld, Deewar and superstar) and is told that to be remembered one need not have a long name but a short name is enough. His obsession with brand is such that he rechristens himself ‘Rocky since 1951’ inspired by Raymond’s.

The mother-son angle is good and as thought to be it doesn’t mar the proceedings. There are a few dialogues that hit the viewer hard too

**

Prashant Neel has some undertones in the movie that he doesn’t take time to explain. He makes you concentrate on the dialogues so that you can remember them when the action scenes unfold. He seems obsessed with dark (there can be an explanation for that as well if you dig deep) and has a couple of fight scenes in the dark. Even the climax is played out in dark. It is a metaphorical reference to how Rocky walks in, does his work and walks out, nonchalantly.

With a superstar at his disposal, he is basically fishing. Fishing where he can lay an entire trap.

The action scenes are well choreographed and full of gore. In these movies, the more the gore, more the feeling of redemption when the antagonist is vanquished. This is where Prashant falters. The scene where Rocky starts out with the destruction has you rooting for him as a premise is set and the brutal killing satisfies the viewer. The climax, though, has nothing of it. Despite being 155 minutes long, you are left with a feeling that the climax was rushed. The movie, at times, gives out a feeling that the director set out to make trailer-worthy scenes rather than hoot-worthy movie.

There are a couple of times that the reporter jumps forward in his tale. It serves no purpose. It’s basically to show the superstardom of Yash and as expected, he excels. Those scenes serve no purpose, aggrandising the hero is what the scenes set out for. That’s done by the hero himself and the character named by Pathan. Heck, every character’s brief in the movie is that – soar the hero.

A few people would’ve been disappointed by my stating that Prashanth is inspired by Rajamouli. I said that because the language used for women in the movie gets cringe-worthy at times. Yes, he does set it right by saying that there is no better warrior than a mother, but the effect of the dialogue in the hotel lingers more than the aforementioned be. Rajamouli used to do that in his films till Eega I guess. The quirky names of the characters is another reason why one is reminded of Rajamouli. Another reason I felt so is because of the statue scene. All said and done, the guy who played Garuda gives the movie its best scene when he glances back at the statue and gives a photographically perfect pose.

**

Garuda is also the biggest disappointment in the movie. While there seems to be so much fear around him, it’s not well established as to why do people fear him. Something tells me that he isn’t the antagonist to be feared but his uncle Adheera. I have a feeling that the background of Rocky might be explored further in the second part. It’s said that his mother conceived him at 14, gave birth to him at 15 and died at 25. There is a slight end left open pointing to his illegitimacy as his mother is taunted by a couple of guys.

Parallel to all this is a tale where a journalist, in 1981, is interviewing someone about Rocky. It might be the thread that will reveal more.

Yash, as Rocky, breathes life into the character. The screen presence he has is one of the reasons why you don’t leave your seats. He knows that the movie is piggybacking on him and he delivers. The intensity on the screen sears through and no aggrandisement was required, but the makers felt otherwise.

There is an accessory worn by the heroine in the movie – a gold headband. That accessory has as much screen time as her.

The technical team of the movie does a good job. The location chosen for the movie, Toranagallu mines, is bang-on. The connection between El-Dorado (flashed during interval), Yash rubbing the soil on his body and him rising to being the leader of the people enslaved in the mines could’ve done with some explanation. It comes across as heroism and doesn’t point towards the good research done for the movie

Verdict: The producers will remember the movie with fondness. The actors? A movie that makes you wait for the sequel, but if it is anything like this, it will be panned

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 10-13

Screenshot 2018-12-19 at 12.33.35 PM

Image courtesy: Youtube channel of Doordarshan 

Episode 10 : Upsanhaar

Time Period : 1945, Calcutta

Plot of the case : This is an episode in which storylines from two episodes are borrowed – Satyanweshi and Agnibaan. Good job is done in combining them both. A character from Byomkesh’s past comes back to haunt him and to track him down, Byomkesh is forced to play dead. There is no mystery in this as the key elements are given out mid-way into the episode, but the execution is near perfect.

Episode 11 : Tasvir Chor

Time Period : 1951, North Bihar

Plot of the case : In strange circumstances, the photograph of the people who went on a picnic goes missing from whoever has a copy. To add to the mystery, the negative goes missing as well. This is one of the cases where everyone involved is a suspect. The mystery isn’t given out till the end. To add to the suspense, there is a murder that is made to look like a suicide. The reveal is a bit of a surprise and when Byomkesh explains his modus operandi, we wonder how did we miss it all along

Episode 12 : Kile ka Rahasya

Time Period : 1952, North Bihar

Plot of the case : A professor is found to be dead of a snake bite. A few years ago, a woman was also found to be dead of the snake bite. Like in Tasvir Chor, this is also an episode where most characters are suspects. Family members, family history and how Byomkesh finds out the hidden treasure form the core of this episode. We also see in this episode that Byomkesh and Satyavati have a baby

Episode 13 A,B : Chiriya Ghar

Time Period : 1953, Calcutta

Plot of the case : A retired judge invites Byomkesh to his colony on finding parts of Motor Vehicles thrown at his house. It’s a unique colony because the occupants are all people who have been given a chance to redeem themselves from the mistakes committed in the past. As Byomkesh is making inroads into the case, the judge is found to be dead. It was in fact a murder that was made to look like a natural death because of blood pressure. A deaf occupant of the colony is also murdered later. Like in the previous couple of episodes, every character is a suspect and there is a reveal about every character that shocks us. Terrific acting and explanation of how Byomkesh zeroes in on the murderer make this episode a fitting finale to the first season.

Looking at the episodes, they gain steam as we get deeper into the narrative of Byomkesh Bakshi. “What was extraordinary about the experience was that we didn’t shoot BB episode wise; it was shot like a film,” says Rajit Kapur to Hindustan Times. That revelation is surprising because the intensity in each of the episodes is superb and difficult to maintain.

Suggested Reading: 

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series Episodes 1-3

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 4-6

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 7-9

Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 7-9

BB

Episode 7 : Laal Neelam
Time Period : 1936, Calcutta
Plot of the case : There is a murder at a rich man’s house. His secretary is murdered brutally. In addition to piercing his chest with a knife, his throat is also slit. 8 years ago, a robbery at the rich man’s house leads to him losing all the jewels. He is particularly interested in a red sapphire for which he announces a reward of 5000₹ as well. How these seemingly unrelated incidents are related is how the episode goes. This is probably one of the episodes with least intrigue because we know that the man spoken about at the beginning of the episode would do something and the identity of the murderer is revealed halfway.

Episode 8 : Bhoot
Time Period : 1936, Mungair
Plot of the case : A jeweller who is rich and parsimonious is found to be dead in his room on the first floor. He has left all his fortune to his niece. She is married to a reprobate. For 12 days after his death, police kept a watch on the house. It was let out after that and the tenant keeps seeing what the place considers to be a ghost. Though the jeweller was murdered the jewels, which he always kept at home, are presumed to be missing. Starting from Laal Neelam there seem to be two separate tracks in an episode.

Episode 9 : Agnibaan
Time Period : 1944, Calcutta
Plot of the case : In 1993, we didn’t have keyboard warriors as there wasn’t internet at that time. Yet, since the story was set in 1944, they acknowledge the Second World War happening at the time. This is a case where daughter of the professor next door is found to be dead in a sitting position. After a few days of investigation as Byomkesh zeroes in on the perpetrator of the crime, the son of the house is found to be dead. This mystery is intertwined nicely with how insurance leads to an increase of greed in man.

These set of three episodes are where the author consciously tries to lead the reader/viewer down the wrong track.

Suggested reading:  Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series Episodes 1-3
                                     Byomkesh Bakshi TV Series. Episodes 4-6